November 03, 2020

Texas Teacher Goes Viral on TikTok

But is a “no homework” philosophy really so off base?

Nov. 3, 2020, 9:56 AM PST / Source: TODAY

By Kait Hanson

Courtney White, a Texas high school English teacher, doesn’t believe in homework.

“I have never assigned homework during my teaching career,” she told TODAY Parents.

When White, who is in her fourth year of teaching in Alvarado, Texas, posted a video to her Tik Tok account sharing her philosophy on the subject, she didn’t think twice. In the now-viral video, White is seen extending a handshake with the caption “You must be that teacher that doesn’t assign homework.”

“I honestly never thought my video would blow up,” the 27-year-old teacher said. “No-homework policies aren’t new, they just aren’t talked about as much. I am in no way the first teacher to implement this in my classroom so when I made the video I just thought it would be a silly video.”

White’s “silly video” racked up more than a million views and sparked heated debate in the comment section, prompting the educator to record a response video, in which she defended her stance, talking directly to the camera with just one of the critical responses overlaid in the corner:

“There’s no proof that homework is going to make them better students in my class. I respect their time outside of class. They work hard for me all day. They don’t need to go home and do more homework. If they do it at home, it does not show me mastery; it’s extra practice, sure. But it’s not practice if they’re doing it wrong. It’s not good practice if they’re cheating. It’s not good practice if they’re having someone else do it,” she said. “Most of my students are high schoolers. They have jobs, they have FFA, they have sports, they’re in practice, they’re in band. They have other responsibilities outside of school. Some of them are going home and taking care of their younger siblings, because their parents are at work. Some of them just need to go home and sleep. Some of them have to go home and worry about how they’re going to eat, because there’s no food at their house. So if I also give them hours of homework, when do they have time to be kids? When do they have time to relax?”

The second video, which has garnered more than four million views, has received comments that range from “TEACHER OF THE YEAR”, to “Or is it because when you give them homework it means more work for you too to grade it.”

“I have received some backlash from people who claim that I am coddling my students or not preparing them for college,” White said. “My response to that is simple, homework does not have true benefits if it is not being done properly. I have students that need additional support at home and if they don’t get their accommodations then the homework will not be beneficial for them. Teaching isn’t one size fits all so my method works for my kids.”

White has taken her viral moment in stride.

“This whole experience has been crazy, but the outpouring of love and respect that I have been getting is amazing,” she shared, adding that the large majority of the reactions have been positive and from students. “I haven’t really heard from a lot of parents, but the ones that have reached out have been positive. Some are even grateful that their kids are getting a small break from their crazy workloads that have been coming home.”

Dr. Shannon Curry, clinical psychologist and director of the Curry Psychology Group in Orange County, California, shared that with more parents working from home, adults are likely bearing witness to the academic pressures kids face.

“It’s an easily identifiable concern, because it’s unsettlingly familiar to all of us adults who are scrambling around trying to find a moment of solace in our own lives— we know how it feels to give so much of our time and attention to obligations that we have little left for much else,” Curry said.

She added that when a child’s entire day is dedicated to academics, they miss out on other activities that are crucial for their overall development and well-being.

“Studies have linked longer amounts of time spent on homework to inadequate social and emotional development, maturity, sense of identity and self-esteem, and a higher risk of mental and physical health issues,” Curry explained.

Despite the mixed reaction to her social media videos, White stands behind everything she has posted… and still won’t be assigning any homework.

“There will always be negative people trying to bring you down, but you have to focus on the positive,” she shared. “I love teaching and I will always show up for my students, despite what anyone has to say about my teaching methods. Teachers are heroes and I respect each and every one of them.”